Five Reasons I Never Let My Children Use a Computer or Smart Device for Learning at School

As technology advances throughout the world, it’s fairly easy to get caught up in hype. As I stand at the bus stop with my three kids, all I see around me are children with their eyes glued to a screen. Some of them have tablets, and other have smart phones such as the I-phone. I watch as my kids look around awkwardly, and ultimately begin playing with each other.

There’s nothing wrong with these children having the devices, but I feel they really should be taught how and when they should use them. I honestly get the feeling that these tools play more as a babysitter than a source of recreation. Furthermore, as all these kids are stuck with their heads down, how are they going to learn about the world? I know, I’ve seen the education apps and even the school has programs to teach. These aren’t a substitute for reality, and I have five reasons why my kids won’t learn that way.

Common Sense: There’s a practical link between technology and common sense, though many of us don’t realize it. The more we depend on technology translates to the loss of the requirement to face every situation practically. You have a math problem, but instead of solving it within your head or writing it down, you bust out your phone and calculate it. You need to figure out what type of insect is crawling outside your door, instead of research you Google it. These shortcuts are useful, but also harmful to our education.

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” Gertrude Stein

I’m not saying technology isn’t useful for learning, but it takes away from reality. Our brains need to learn beyond the gathering of information. We need to learn how to gather the information ourselves, without clicking ‘search’ on a smart device. As I look around each day, I see more kids and teenagers failing to understand the common sense of things. Society has to compensate for this by adding warning labels to everything. Even then, it becomes a challenge as people use technology to gain attention.

Look at all these online challenges which defy any common sense, such as the Tide Pod Challenge. This is where someone breaks open and consumes the laundry detergent for attention. There are also examples where teenagers drive by people on the street and shoot them with paintball guns, while videoing the reactions. That’s cause for arrest, but it requires common sense to realize it. When technology is directly responsible for social popularity, extremes in behavior begin to replace the lack of direct social interaction.


The Five Senses:
 Education has as much to do with our senses as it does our processing of information. Looking at a picture of a forest on a screen is nothing compared to walking within the forest. Granted, not every student gets the luxury of walking through a forest, but they should. I’ve been to New York City, which is the largest city in the United States, and it isn’t that far of a drive to take students to a forest. Roughly three hours in fact, if you include NYC traffic. Those in the desert have other unique experiences that even a forest cannot provide. Nothing on a computer screen can ever replace the actual world around us.

“The most important thing that schools can do is not to use technology in the curriculum more, but use it more effectively.” John G. Palfrey

When a child is staring at a screen, you don’t know if they’re actually learning or just checked out mentally. I’ll use a bird as an example that best fits why technology does work for the senses. You use a computer or smart phone to watch a video of a bird. You can hear the chirping, and you can see the bird. The reality is, you’re hearing and seeing a recording of that animal, and it depends on the filters of the TV and recording device that determine what you see. When you actually see the bird, you can hear it, not just the chirping by the whoosh of the wings. You can make out details that the video could never show no matter how much it changes its zoom. You can feel the environment, such as the wind that it catches to take off. Words and pictures can never replace experience.

Knowledge Over Information: Education is more than absorbing information that may or may not be used in life. It’s about learning how the world works and everything in it. I will never say technology shouldn’t be a part of education. I’m saying it shouldn’t be the biggest part of that education. It shouldn’t even be considered the source of answers, but instead one of many tools to help find said answers. My children still work with smart devices during class activities, as it involves socialization and participation.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Include me and I will learn.” Unknown

It’s been scientifically proven that children absorb information like sponges, gathering much of the knowledge for life between the ages of 2–12. Why then are we teaching them with only one, sometimes two senses out of five? Why are we drilling information into them without them actually experiencing the world? A child can learn far more by one educational field trip than an entire year of watching and listening. Kids don’t need a learning app on their phone. They need shop class, or home economics. They need education that provides hands-on experience as they learn. This is from an early age, not after high school. Computers should be used to verify the answers, not to find them.

Socializing: When a child is focusing on their phone, they ignore everything else around them. This includes other students, even if they’re right next to them watching. My kids are all on the spectrum, so socialization is even more important in school than with the average student. This is because Autism causes a social deficit. Technology can easily become an excuse to avoid the social environment that makes school so important growing up. Yes, socializing can be uncomfortable and even awkward. This is where a teacher comes in, to help create a structure to support education and socialization. It’s because socialization is the most important part of education. No matter how hard you try in life, the one thing you’ll be doing every single day is interacting with others.

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” Bill Gates

Technology can be used for social activities in class, as my kids do within their school. I do not however, let them use a computer or smart device for individual practices. As I’ve said to the teachers, they can do the exact same stuff without a computer. In fact, without a computer, they’d be more likely to work with others to solve the problems, creating social interaction and improving absorption of information.

Independence: In no way should education be limited by how they obtain information. However, by using the ‘unlimited’ resources on the internet, a child becomes dependent on that way of learning. In fact, kids are choosing to retain less knowledge because of the fact they can simply look up information when needed. This presents a dangerous dependency on technology that isn’t infallible. Parents, when was the last time you did a science experiment with your kids, regardless of their age? There are plenty of easy to do science experiments at the store, or online. Better yet, have you challenged your child to figure out a puzzle within a set time-frame? How about anything to stroke that problem solving part of the brain?

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Socrates

We need our kids to face problems in life without an online search engine. We need them to create solutions that don’t already exist. Although computer and smart devices are useful tools to help in that process, since we start them young on their dependency for these devices, they instead become a handicap. This needs to be prevented, by the proper use of computers and smart devices, both in and out of school.

My kids are huge fans of Science Fiction shows, and they keep asking me if any of those things are really happening yet in the real world. I tell them no, at the moment, none of those things are a reality. If they choose, they could create it themselves through education and experience. I never dumb down, or baby talk my kids, because I’d rather them look up a word I’m using and learn than except what I’m saying. I’d rather my kids build a computer than to be slaves to it. Life after all, isn’t a program.

Thanks for reading,

A.M.Sawyer

Unexpected Twists

Blessings to you all,

Our lives twist and turn throughout the years, seldom reaching intended goals while surpassing unexpected ones.  Whether it be love, career, or owning a home, the journey rarely is a dull one.  True, darkness can find it’s way in and spread, making the path of life feel like a ledge into the abyss.  That constant fear of one misstep, or the dreaded ‘what if‘ can bring nightmares beyond measure.  This is why my message today is about the unexpected.

I myself have faced quite a long list of unexpected events so far in life.  Some, through hesitation and fear of the unknown, I never acted upon and thus let slip away.  Some, as they were definitely a force of negative, I fought teeth and nail to purge from my life before any damage was done.  Yet, there are ones that are so powerful, I needed to embrace them.  All you can do when looking back, is not harbor any regrets.  As they say, when one door closes, another one opens up for you.  Make sure to at least look through the door before you make a decision on your next step.

 

Without further ado, here’s my poem Unexpected Twists.

The door is open, dreams or nightmares may be.
Fear fuels doubt, What hope is there to see?
Walking through, would that set you free?
It came up so unexpectedly.

It’s not what I wanted, or is it so?
You need answers, you need to know.
Can you trust yourself on which way to go?
Scary how much the unexpected can show.

Make a choice, but what choice is there?
No idea what will happen, it isn’t fair.
The door is closing, do you really care?
Scary how little the unexpected can share.

Is there danger, or is fear only in you?
Better think quickly, what do you do?
In an instant, you decide to walk through.
It’s unexpected yes, because it’s new.

Open your eyes, embrace the unknown.
Your lives will be better, your faith will have grown.
The best path isn’t always the one that’s shown.
Let the unexpected have a chance of it’s own.

Please visit my merchandise page for some shirts and other items complete with unique original designs.  Also, head the my favorites page, which has a movie review of Friday the 13th: Vengeance.  As always, check out my publications page, or the menu at the side bar (Bottom of the page for those using mobile devices) for my books for sale.  Every page can be found in the menu at the top of the website.

Thanks for reading,

A.M.Sawyer

Scrolling Facebook Yesterday…

Hey Everyone,

I was bored yesterday, so I wrote a quick little story on my Facebook Wall.  Figured I’d share it with everyone on my Website.  Enjoy.

Here’s a bit of a story for you,

I’m sitting here, bored out of my mind and a bit fuzzy. I’m absently scrolling down Facebook on my phone, amazed at all the beautiful people on my friend’s list. Seriously, it’s going from this guy all dressed up and looking sharp, to that beautiful lady in a well-fitted black dress, and over to that incredible group of kids that won the genetic lottery. So here I am, scrolling away while sipping on some coffee.

At first, it’s kind of like a highlight of one of those Hallmark family advent calendars, or maybe an old navy holiday commercial. Trendy male specimen after trendy male specimen, followed by models feeling insecure about their perfect complexion, pictures rolled as flawlessly as their characters down my phone’s screen. I couldn’t help but be amazed at all of you beautiful people.

Suddenly, as I’m taking another sip of my delicious peppermint mocha coffee with it’s partner creamer, I come across this grotesque image of a shirtless fat man. Let’s just say, my coffee made pretty good distance across the table. As I’m looking at this hairy gut and man-boobs filling my screen, all I can think about is whether I can report this to Facebook as offensive. Seriously, who would ever want to see some weird flabby shabby jello-jiggly man among the perfect spectrum of beauty on this list? That’s when I noticed it…

That wasn’t on my wall. In my scrolling, I’d accidentally activated my camera. It had taken a selfie…Damn.

Now you know the dangers of scrolling and drinking. Please feel free to share this public service announcement. Thanks for reading.

A.M.Sawyer

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What is Autism? There are the socially accepted answers, and there’s reality. If you’re a parent or relative of an Autistic person, you’ve probably noticed that reality doesn’t seem to match what they tell you. This book takes research from various Autism programs and studies, and factors in real life. Each section outlines and researches a different misconception faced with Autism, including environmental factors, possible reasons for Autism, and the truth about intelligence concerning Autism. There’s also learning games and information that focus on the individual, not what they consider as an illness. We’ve been in the dark ages for far too long about Autism, and now it’s time to shine in the light of hope. What is Autism? Let’s begin the journey for truth together.

Sample:

Is an individual with Autism stupid?  The answer is no.  That, however, is one of the biggest challenges people with Autism face on a daily basis.  Society looks at Autism as a disability, and as such, they cannot look beyond that definition.  In fact, everything that the experts share about Autism only enhances this bias judgment.  Worse still, there is a growing trend of people using the word “Autism” as a reference to being retarded, especially on social media.  These trends and misconceptions only hurt people with Autism, as they work against the ability to help individuals lead full lives.

Using the definition mentioned earlier, Autism is considered a mental illness.  That definition has major flaws involved within, as it labels anyone who cannot learn, interpret, or express themselves the same as someone who is normal, as having a mental illness.  Although an individual with Autism definitely needs a different approach to social learning and expression, by no means does that define them as handicapped.  In fact, in several ways, most Autistic individuals are smarter than an average person, but lack the social expression to share that knowledge.  Instead of the socially accepted practice of pushing them aside into special education classes, they need to be pushed to learn social expression and interaction.  How many people with the knowledge that rivals Albert Einstein or Nikola Tesla have stayed trapped within their own minds because society was unwilling to reach out to them with a different learning approach?

Individuals with genetic Autism are more likely to become brilliant in specific areas.  This isn’t because of lack of neural development in other parts of the brain, but instead, an ability to use a specific area of interest to help center and focus the individual.  Some individuals use music or art, while others use mathematics or technology.  In fact, there are Autistic individuals that have natural abilities in almost any general study available, including languages.  It gets more complicated for those who have Autistic traits due to brain damage, as there is definitely loss there.  However, it has been proven time and again that brain loss doesn’t mean stupidity.

One way to tell the difference in Genetic Autism and traits due to brain damage is the ability to excel in simple functions naturally.  Most individuals with genetic Autism have shown difficulty in catching on to simple tasks, such as buttoning up pants.  In fact, even in Adulthood, Albert Einstein could never figure out how to properly button his pants.  Research has shown the more complicated the task, the easier it is for an Autistic person to naturally find a resolution.
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Thanks for reading,

A.M.Sawyer

Working on Thanksgiving

Greetings,

I hope as you read this, your stomach is full along with a sense of thankful bliss.  Yes, I know many have had to work yesterday and today, which can be a drag.  However, for all those that whine about everything should be closed for Thanksgiving, you’re wrong.

Granted, having pointless sales on merchandise and other goods on Thanksgiving is ridiculous.  There are plenty of other places however, that need to be open.   I’m not talking about emergency services, as there’s no time off for those jobs.  I’m talking about the stores that provide medicines and other mild remedies for situations that a hospital visit isn’t required.  I worked at a pharmacy for three years, which included working Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Although they weren’t very busy, the most bought items were burn creams and pain reliever/fever reducer.

I’m a parent, and as such, I understand the need for these medicines in situations you’d never imagine.  Holidays brings that out in mass numbers.  Gas stations and other service stations are also a must.  One final thing, although you may celebrate these holidays, there are plenty that don’t observe them.  Their lives shouldn’t have to stop because of yours.  You know, that whole freedom thing.  Businesses can choose to close, but if they stay open, there’s no reason for outrage.  The employees are asked when interviewed, can you work holidays?  They have no reason or excuse to complain about working on Thanksgiving, or Christmas.

Why did I take this job?
Why am I stuck here at work?
I could be eating turkey right now,
Instead I have pushy people and a boss that’s a jerk!

These hours will never end.
This is a Hell I can’t escape.
Endless aisles of useless junk,
And oceans of wrapping paper and scotch tape!

Oh great, someone knocked over a display.
Clean up in aisle nine!
I swear if one more person gives an expired coupon.
I’m going to strangle them with some twine.

I know I need the money,
and I know the rent is due.
But if you act like a prick at my store,
The reason I quit could be you!

If you’re the last customer in my line.
Please be kind or my patience will fail.
The boss better not ask me to stay late.
When that clock strikes my time, I’m gonna bail!

Why did I take a job in retail?
Customer service isn’t for the weak of heart.
Finally, my Thanksgiving shift is over.
Crap, tomorrow another shift must start.

Shattered Reflections:

Get your copy of my Book of Poetry, click here: Shop Amazon

Reflections are the window to the soul, and poetry is the expression. Place them together, and you hold expressions so shattered and yet, so beautiful, you cannot help being overwhelmed by empathy. One poem to this person may be nothing more than words on the page, and yet, to another that same poem changes their entire world of perspective. Over 100 poems and poetic stories mark this first installment of the Shattered Reflections Series. There are poems of light and great beauty, and poems of the darkness and terrible sadness. The shimmering reflections which fall in between also play their parts. Find yourself a nice drink and a comfortable spot, as it’s time to get lost within the pages of Shattered Reflections: A Poetic Collection.
Paperback: $8.99  Kindle/Nook/PDF: $2.99

Sample Poem:

Life is beautiful,
Life is tragic,
Life is pitiful,
Life is magic.
Life is faith,
Life is lies,
Life is pain,
Life is compromise.
Life is love,
Life is hate,
Life is random,
Life is fate.
Life is empty,
Life is true,
Life is dirty,
Life is you.
Life is fear,
Life is bliss,
But above all else,
Life is…

Thanks for reading,

A.M.Sawyer

Happy Thanksgiving

Why?
Why cut the turkey?
Why have that pumpkin pie?
Is there something to be thankful?
Really?

Were you happy yesterday?
Did you help someone in need?
Did you give anything of yourself?
Is today going to be any different?
Indeed.

How?
How will you make it through?
How will it make a difference?
Others find today as hypocritical,
You?

So many questions.
The answers should be easy to find.
Every day should be one of giving.
Every day should be one to be thankful.
kind!

Have a blessed day, today and every other.
For we never know if it’s our last goodbye.
Have hope, joy, and be merry too.
And don’t forget the turkey and pumpkin pie.
Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Reflections upon the Water

Reflections upon the water, as broken as my deepest dreams.
Shallow as the waves that barely reach the shores.
I look upon myself, a face I can barely recognize.
My own eyes so quick to pass judgement.

I wish to turn away from the madness before me.
The water draws me closer, the pain pushes me in.
The reflections distort and shimmer as does my life.
For I have nothing left beyond the water.

Images of my soul haunt the ripples along the surface.
Reflections upon the water, not of love and not of hate.
In this moment of isolation, the neutrality brings me solace.
All the chaos of my life has been washed away.

Although it’s brief, the waters bring me hope.
Even as the pain returns to my heart and soul.
My life may be shattered as the ripples of these reflections.
They’ll soon calm however, and my life becomes whole.

Hey Everyone,

Have you ever looked upon the waters, and seen the reflections of yourself?  They seem so distorted as they ripple across the surface, yet they become whole as the waters calm.  I wanted this to be a cryptic, yet powerful analogy of life.  As we look upon ourselves, and the moments of life that define us, we seem shattered and full of chaos.  Yet, in moments of reflection and growth, we realize we were complete and calm the entire time.

Morning Warning:

It’s never too early to be on alert, especially when the weather is concerned, and for Anthony and his family, one morning could mean the difference between life and death.
Friday has always had special meaning during the spring for this 11 year old boy, his 14 year old sister Rachel, and their 17 year old brother Alex. It wasn’t just the last day of school for the week, but also counted as one week closer to summer vacation. However, after a night of heavy thunderstorms and several tornado warnings, this particular Friday has started off with droopy eyes and jangled nerves. With no watches or warnings, and little more than a drizzle outside, it seems like a smooth day ahead. Fate, it seems, may have other plans. As they say, it isn’t the weather you get warnings about that should worry you, but rather the weather that catches you by surprise. Will they survive the morning? Read on and find out in Morning Warning.

Available as a digital copy (eBooK) anywhere books are sold, and only $0.99.
Now available as an Audio Book on Amazon.  $6.99
Click the link to go directly to Amazon:  Morning Warning on Amazon

Here’s an excerpt:

When I reached the road, and finished taking their abusive taunting, blissful silence filled the air as we started watching for the bus.  Personally, I thought the silence was a bit creepy, as there was no wind and no sounds of insects and frogs from the ditch or the field across the road.  The very low hanging clouds that almost looked like they had a green tint to them enhanced this eeriness.  Alex was the first to say something about this.

“Is there supposed to be any storms this morning?”  I heard him say.  When I thought about it, I remember the news saying there was a slight chance of storms, but nothing major.

“Probably nothing to worry about.” I shrugged. “There isn’t even any thunder or lightning!”

It was a fact. There was such calm to the air, our voices seemed to echo across the fields and trees and bounce back at us.  For five minutes, we stood there in silence, gazing around the fields and the skies, looking for anything that may break the seriously creepy stillness that was all around us.

“I want to go back inside!”  I whined, after having a full body shiver.  Between the silence, and the way those clouds looked, I was overwhelmed with the creeps.

“No, we can’t miss the bus, mom would be pissed!”  I heard Rachel say from behind me. “Quit being a baby!  It’s just a few clouds.”

This did little to calm me down, as my feelings of uneasiness just kept getting stronger and stronger.  It was as though the world had frozen still around us.  The wheat field across the road and the trees behind them were not even flickering, as there was no wind to move them.  There were no cars on the road, nor were there any sounds of anything airborne.  In fact, there weren’t any sounds at all, other than those that Alex, Rachel, and I were making as we shuffled our feet impatiently.

Turning slowly on the spot, I looked back up towards the house, hoping the sight of my home would calm me down.  However, above the house were more low hanging clouds that looked even greener than the ones by the road.  It was just so maddening, and I wanted to go back inside right now.

“I don’t care if mom gets mad!”  I shouted, causing both Alex and Rachel to jump from the sudden break in silence.  “I don’t like it out here!  This weather just doesn’t seem right!”

“There haven’t been any watches or warnings,” Alex called out as I started back to the house. “There isn’t even any thunder.  Why are you getting so weirded out?”

Stopping about ten feet from the road, I stood with my arms crossed. I was torn between the strong urge to want to go inside the house, and the fear of getting into trouble.  What was I going to do?  Something just felt completely wrong about this weather, but as Alex had said, there had been no watches or warnings.  Besides, even if I did go inside, I would most certainly be in trouble.  A bad feeling from an eleven-year-old doesn’t hold much weight when it comes to missing the school bus.

“Hey, here comes the bus!”  I turned to see Alex pointing down the road, and waving at me.  “Tony, get back over here.”

As I headed back to the edge of the road, I couldn’t help but grumble at the entire situation.  Obviously, I didn’t like the situation with the weather, but also, I really hated being called Tony!  My name is Anthony, and I really hate the  nickname of Tony, which doesn’t sound anything like my name.  My mom tried explaining it to me a few times, but I really didn’t listen.  My name is Anthony, and that’s how I see it.

Reaching the edge of the driveway, I looked down the road, towards where all the lowest hanging clouds were, and could see the bus about four driveways down from ours.  For a moment, I watched as one of our neighbors got aboard, and then focused on the flashing lights near the top of the bus.  Ever since my first day of school, I’ve always absolutely loved those flashing lights.  I really think they are the coolest thing ever invented.

“Hey, stop it!”  I snapped at Alex, who had just pushed me from behind, disrupting my thought process.  Turning to push him back, I was surprised to see all the color draining from his face.  For a moment, I looked from him to my sister Rachel, who was also chalk white and staring down the road.  Turning back around in confusion, I looked out at the road where the bus should’ve been.

“Guys, where’s the bus?”

That’s when it hit, a sudden rush of horribly powerful winds accompanied by a strange sound like a train passing over nearby tracks.  The problem with that sound was the fact that there were no tracks anywhere near us.  An instant later, I found where the bus had disappeared to, as I watched it flip end over end in the field across the street.  The sight before me was so unbelievable, and so terrible, that I just couldn’t process it.  I’d just seen my neighbor, and best friend, James, climb on that bus!  Then, as I was rubbing the windblown dust from my eyes, I swear I could see people falling away from it as it tumbled over, and over again.

 

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Available in Men’s, Women’s, and Kid’s sizes.
T-shirt starting at $20 
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Zip-up Hoodie starting at $40
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Thanks for Reading,

A.M.Sawyer

I’m An Adult with High Functioning Autism

When most people think of Autism, they look at the stereotypical parts as displayed on television and in movies. Using traits such as sensory issues and poor social skills, everyone tends to associate Autism with meltdowns and difficulty with speech. The fact is, the spectrum covers a wide range of issues and many are easily dismissed in the world today. I’ve been diagnosed to have Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Let me be clear on this, as many of you may not understand what Level 1 ASD encompasses. People with level 1 ASD can show affection, complete daily tasks, and use age-appropriate language, reading, and math skills. On the other hand, they can’t hold eye contact, maintain a conversation, engage in play, or pick up on social cues. They can have significant speech and language delays but are able to take part in an inclusive academic program because of their age-appropriate academic skills. They may also have relatively mild speech and social delays but have severe sensory issues which make it impossible for them to take part in an inclusive academic program. It’s also likely they can have severe anxiety, learning disabilities, and sensory challenges but have age-appropriate speech and exceptional abilities in music, math, and engineering. I bet that sounds confusing and contradicting, right? Welcome to my world.

I consider myself lucky, as the darkest parts of my childhood are what kept me from becoming a typical statistic of Level 1 ASD. I’m 38 years old, and by my age, half of the people who were diagnosed with this level of autism are dead. One of the highest groups succumbing to suicide in the United States, according to CDC studies conducted over the last five years. If that isn’t alarming, almost 90% of the survivors at my age are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Honestly, I’m not even remotely surprised about these numbers.
The biggest reason for these numbers is the fact we can pass as everyone else. Nobody understands what we face each and every day, as our issues are more quirks than symptoms to them. We simply seem a bit odd, or pushy, or any of the other various things I’ve been called over the years. They cannot understand why we have such problems creating and keeping relationships, as friendships are hard for us. They don’t realize that, even though our sensory issues don’t compare to those further down on the spectrum, they’re still present. They may even pass us off as moody or having a bad day, when we cannot control the emotions we’re absorbing from around us.
I can tell you, the reason why most adults who have Level 1 ASD become addicted to drugs and alcohol is because our brains don’t shut down. In fact, there’s proof that people with autism are actually better at resisting chemical addictions. Why then, are we addicted to these substances? It’s not the chemical addictions that get to us, but the mental addiction to the effects. If your mind never stopped being in a heightened state of awareness, even when trying to sleep, wouldn’t it be easy to become dependent on something that offers silence? This is likely the main cause of suicide among people with Level 1 ASD, many of which don’t make it through teenage years. So how did I survive?

How did I make it to 38 without addictions or attempted suicides? There are many factors, so I’ll start from the beginning. First, I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until I was 20. The only reason for that was the fact that I had to learn to adapt and survive. When I was 11, I was taken from my grandparents by my single parent. Instead of parenting, I was forced to learn how to care for myself on a daily routine. Yes, I did have a roof overhead and the lights were on, but only because that parent resided in the home. Otherwise, I was a tax write-off. If I wanted to eat, I would cut grasses or shovel snow. As a party store was the only thing in close proximity, my diet wasn’t the best. I rarely had friends, and had trouble staying close to those I did have, keeping everyone at arm’s length. I struggled with school, always uncomfortable in the crowded classes and those horrible fluorescent lights. I made it through by sheer will, as it was either move forward or die. My stubbornness helped me choose which path I followed.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. Michelangelo

The down side to this was, even though I had many interests I wanted to pursue during my school years, I never had the ability to stick with any of them. I was the kid that everyone seemed to know, but nobody actually knew. This also led to a defense mechanism, multiplied by another horrible childhood event, which helped keep everyone away. I was a chronic liar. I could spin the most believable stories if I wanted to, and make up complete nonsense when I needed to push others out of my life. That was my addiction. Although it prevented me from enjoying most of my teenage years, I never once thought of suicide.

When I went to college, it became obvious that I was no longer able to use sheer will to push through my symptoms. The lies I told were challenged at every turn, and the environment made me confront all the issues that I had previously avoided. I met some great people during my one year at a University, despite my attempts to isolate myself. They forced me to face myself. It wasn’t a solution to my autism, but it was an open door to finding out how to let people reach me.

As an adult, I continued to prefer isolation. However, the employment I was choosing was a direct conflict to that lifestyle. I kept pushing myself out of the comfort zone, choosing retail, sales, and other customer focused areas. This helped me on a personal level, but professionally, I went from one job to another. I always seemed to sabotage myself in my employment. I would train myself to look people in the eyes without actually doing it. I could act interested in conversations while making poems in my head. It wasn’t until I was 27 that I realized; I was still a liar, just more subtle about it. Everything I was doing was an illusion of a person that wasn’t actually me. It was simply what others wanted me to be.

(My beautiful wife, Rachel)

One joy that evolved out of the madness I was putting myself through, was poetry. I had begun learning how to write. It was my greatest weakness that fueled what’s now my greatest strength. All the lies I’d spun, and all the tales I would tell, taught me how to makeup wonderful stories. I needed to learn how to put them on paper. This change in my life has become the focal point to all my successes and all my pains since that moment. The success I had in learning the technical aspect of writing. The failures of every attempt I had to market and socialize about my projects. This even became the avenue for meeting my wife.

Here I am, 38 years old, and still struggling with all the issues of Level 1 ASD. Now however, I don’t feel the need to be alone. You see, I almost died only a couple months back, because of the choice of work I made yet again. I chose something that put me directly in front of scores of people. I didn’t mind it, and in fact, I really loved the job. The problem is, with Level 1 ASD, you tend to absorb the emotions around you. People always make claims that ASD causes a lack of empathy, but I’ve always known that concept is incorrect. In fact, when you put us in situations where there is a strong emotion, such as negativity, it consumes us. In my last job, the negativity of the area became so intense; it actually had physical reactions for me. My blood pressure climbed to an outrageous number, and my heartbeat became irregular. I had a depression I couldn’t fight, as it wasn’t actually my own. It even made me physically sick on multiple occasions. It was the decision of my family, after I collapsed in my home, which I was to walk away from the position.

(My children, from left to right — Lena, Andrew, Liam)

I know, professionally, there’s no actual help for Level 1 ASD.  Personally however, I have hope. I have a wife and three beautiful children, and I still have a friend or two. There’s plenty of work ahead for me, recovering my health, and financially protecting my family, but I’ll get there.

The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

At this time, I’d like to share a message for all those reading that have, or may have Level 1 Autism. No matter how much your own mind works against you, learn how to move forward. Channel your thoughts before they drive you into depression and madness. Figure out your gift, whether it’s writing, art, or anything else, and master it. Use it to share yourself with the world. Don’t listen to anyone that tells you there’s no life in what you choose. If you believe you can do it, then do it.

When you never give up, failure becomes nothing more than a stepping stone to success. A.M.Sawyer

Thanks for reading,

A.M.Sawyer

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